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How to get started with IoT when there's so little standardization

It’s the Wild West out there when it comes to platforms, software and hardware standards. How do you launch in this environment? Should you wait until the market coalesces?

IoT-enabled technologies are already changing businesses, revolutionizing how companies track and manage their supply chain and inventory, allowing workers to accomplish large-scale tasks faster and with greater precision. IoT allows for billions of connected devices to collect and analyze zettabytes of data (one self-driving car is estimated to create one gigabyte of data every second).

Unfortunately, when you begin to explore how to have your business start reaping the benefits of IoT-enabled operations, you discover that there are so many competing players all offering different combinations of hardware and software. In the face of such a chaotic market, many are choosing a wait-and-see approach, hoping that in due time, offerings will consolidate around a few key providers to create one standardized IoT.

But there will never be one IoT. That is because unlike VHS and Betamax or CDs and minidiscs, IoT is not a single technology. Rather, it is an architecture, a specific way of bringing together existing technologies to do something entirely new. So, IoT must always be variable; but that also means that IoT will always be customizable.

And that is where to start. Don’t think about what technology is out there; rather, think about what your business needs. Then you can assemble the right technologies to make it happen. We like to describe this process as “Think Big, Start Small, Scale Fast.” In this complex and hyper-competitive world, innovation is everything. If you’re not thinking big — like really big — the competition is buzzing by. IoT-enabled technologies provide the opportunity to collect and analyze massive amounts of data from every aspect of a business. And having all this data takes much of the guesswork out of managing and growing an enterprise.

Let’s take a moment to think big. Imagine the value you would accrue if you monitored manufacturing equipment in real time over its lifecycle to diagnose specific issues before those issues caused downtime in production, i.e., predictive maintenance. Consider the efficiencies created when you have complete visibility and monitoring of inventory as it enters the factory, gets processed and leaves the factory floor. Think of the bottom-line savings that can come from optimizing energy use in your buildings (or home) by matching energy use to occupancy and implementing a dynamic power consumption plan that utilizes an energy information platform.

Once you know where you want your big vision to take you, it’s so important to start out in the right direction. That’s what we mean by “Start Small.” Design an ambitious game plan with achievable phases. Perhaps phase one is adding sensors and collecting data from one line of assets in a 14-line factory. Or installing beacons in one of your network of airports to track customer movement and learn how to reduce time wasted waiting in lines.

Then don’t try to go it alone; rather, develop an ecosystem of reliable, experienced partners to support you. Simultaneously, develop your own multidimensional team who brings knowledge and experience that spans sensors, gateways, networks, security, analytics and standards. And be ready and open for unexpected value opportunities.

“Scaling Fast” is the final, and most important, part of the IoT puzzle. Ensure that your technology, talent and processes are ready. As more and more of your business is online, enterprise-wide IoT ecosystems mean new rules in privacy, security and data flow.

In other words, it’s not too soon for your business to embrace this IoT trend. In fact, waiting for a single standard and market leader to emerge is like waiting for the tide to come in on a lake. The only result will be that you may have missed out on opportunities for efficiencies and savings, and be playing catch-up with your competitors. By thinking big, starting small and scaling fast, you can start benefiting from IoT-enabled systems right now.

*Sources for chart data:
1. Deloitte client work
4. IndustryWeek, “How manufacturers use iot for operational efficiencies,” Yaniv Vardi, Oct 21, 2015.

All IoT Agenda network contributors are responsible for the content and accuracy of their posts. Opinions are of the writers and do not necessarily convey the thoughts of IoT Agenda.

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